Iraq’s Crisis: 3 Quick Points for U.S. Policymakers

As the latest crisis in Iraq unfolds, here are three basic points for U.S. policymakers to keep in mind:

  1. The protection of civilians must be a top priority in Mosul and in every Iraqi community facing armed conflict.
  2. The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.
  3. The U.S. government must push the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms in order to address long-term public discontent and instability.

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500,000 civilians are reported to have fled Mosul following its takeover by one or more armed groups that include those belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). This follows the reported displacement of close to half a million Iraqis in Fallujah since January, following ISIS’ expulsion of Iraqi security forces there.

ISIS armed groups, Iraqi security forces, and other potential armed groups must avoid repeating the violence against civilians that took place in Fallujah. Iraqi government forces have used indiscriminate shelling in Fallujah in the past six months, including on hospitals and in residential areas. There have been over 5,000 civilian deaths.

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  • The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.

Thousands of detainees languish in prison without charge. Many of those who are brought to trial are sentenced to long prison terms or to death after unfair proceedings. In many cases, convictions are based on “confessions” extracted under torture.

Iraq remains one of the world’s most prolific executioners with at least 169 executed in 2013. As with prison terms, death sentences can also follow “confessions” extracted under torture. In many cases, such “confessions” are televised nationally.

Torture and other ill-treatment inside prisons and detention centers is rife and routinely goes unpunished.

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  • To ensure stability in Iraq, the U.S. government must address popular discontent by pushing the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms.

Iraq’s long-term human rights crisis can no longer be viewed by the U.S. and other external governments as “Iraq’s problem” or an internal matter. To ensure security and safety in Iraq, widespread popular discontent must be addressed by pushing the Iraqi central government to end its terrible human rights record.

Will Tunisia’s new constitution protect women’s human rights?

Across the Middle East and North Africa, the ousting of dictators has given way to the messy challenges of creating new governments and writing new rules.  Tunisia was the first country in the ongoing wave of protests where protestors pushed a repressive ruler out of power.  Now, an elected body is drafting a new constitution for the nation.

But there are troubling signs that the draft language for the Tunisian constitution does not adequately protect women’s human rights.  You can help at this critical moment by signing this important Amnesty International statement to the Tunisian government.

In September, Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) will hold final discussions on draft constitutional language that has been prepared by its committees.  That’s why the coming days are so important.  The NCA had been elected in October of 2011 to write Tunisia’s post-dictatorship constitution.

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Update: Bahrain Keeps Ridiculous Charges Against 11-Year-Old Boy

Originally posted on Human Rights Now (Amnesty International USA blog)

By Sanjeev Bery

July 6, 2012

Despite an outpouring of global concern, news reports indicate that the Government of Bahrain has still not dropped its charges against 11 year old Ali Hassan.

As I wrote earlier this week, Bahraini police arrested the young boy in mid-May on a street that is both near his home and the site of a protest.  The police denied him access to a lawyer for 23 days of his nearly one month of detention.

Amnesty International is confirming the details of yesterday’s court decision regarding the young boy’s sentence.  According to news reports, the Government of Bahrain has allowed Ali to live at home, but is requiring him to be subjected to government monitoring for a year. The reports also indicate that the original charge of “illegal gathering” and disturbing “public security” has still not been dropped.

On the one hand, the young boy appears to have been spared the worse case scenario of several years in jail.  This demonstrates the power of the global human rights spotlight, in which worldwide concern for Ali put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to keep him out of prison.  But at the same time, Ali appears to still be facing criminal charges. Continue reading

Hamas Must End the Death Penalty

Originally posted at Human Rights Now (Amnesty International USA blog)

By Sanjeev Bery

June 15, 2012

Trapped between a crushing Israeli blockade and human rights violations at home, the 1.6 million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip face many challenges in their daily lives.  In our 2012 Annual Report, Amnesty International catalogues the list, from a humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli blockade to detention and torture by Hamas security forces.

Meanwhile, Palestinian armed groups have used the Gaza Strip to fire indiscriminate rockets and mortars into southern Israel.  Daniel Viflic, aged 16, died in 2011 after a school bus in which he was travelling was struck by a missile fired from Gaza.

The latest news is that four Gaza Palestinians are facing execution after being given the death penalty by Hamas military and criminal courts.  There are reports that at least one of the four “confessed” to the crime of murder after being tortured.  The family of Na’el Jamal Qandil Doghmosh has stated that when they saw him after two months in prison, his nails had been torn out and there were burns and bruises on his body.

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